Effects of Indoor Air pollution & how to improve Indoor Air Quality
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is the air quality within and around buildings and structures. IAQ is known to affect the health, comfort, and well-being of building occupants. Poor indoor air quality has been linked to Sick Building Syndrome, reduced productivity and impaired learning in schools. Immediate effect of Indoor Air pollution Some health effects may show up shortly after a single exposure or repeated exposures to a pollutant. These include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Such immediate effects are usually short-term and treatable. Sometimes the treatment is simply eliminating the person's exposure to the source of the pollution if it can be identified. Soon after exposure to some indoor air pollutants, symptoms of some diseases such as asthma may show up, be aggravated or worsened. The likelihood of immediate reactions to indoor air pollutants depends on several factors including age and preexisting medical conditions. In some cases, whether a person reacts to a pollutant depends on individual sensitivity, which varies tremendously from person to person. Some people can become sensitized to biological or chemical pollutants after repeated or high-level exposures. Certain immediate effects are similar to those from colds or other viral diseases, so it is often difficult to determine if the symptoms are a result of exposure to indoor air pollution. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to the time and place symptoms occur. If the symptoms fade or go away when a person is away from the area, for example, an effort should be made to identify indoor air sources that may be possible causes. Some effects may be made worse by an inadequate supply of outdoor air coming indoors or from the heating, cooling or humidity conditions prevalent indoors. Long term effects of Indoor Air pollution Other health effects may show up either year after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure. These effects, which include some respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal. It is prudent to try to improve the indoor air quality in your home even if symptoms are not noticeable. While pollutants commonly found in indoor air can cause many harmful effects, there is considerable uncertainty about what concentrations or periods of exposure are necessary to produce specific health problems. People also react very differently to exposure to indoor air pollutants. Further research is needed to better understand which health effects occur after exposure to the average pollutant concentrations found in homes and which occurs from the higher concentrations that occur for short periods of time. How to improve IAQ Keep it clean. A clean house may be a healthier house, because good indoor hygiene can greatly cut down on dust and animal dander, says Dr. BuSaba. Your cleaning efforts should focus on strategies to reduce the accumulation of pet dander, mold, and dust lurking in your home. Focus on the following: Vacuuming the carpets and area rugs at least once or twice a week with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter. Opting for hard-surface flooring instead of wall-to-wall carpeting may also cut down on allergens in the home. Regularly cleaning bedding, drapes, and other items that tend to attract allergens—particularly if you have pets. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends washing in water that is at least 130° F. Also consider using dust mite–proof covers on pillows, as well as mattresses and box springs, whenever possible. Clearing clutter, because it traps and holds dust that can trigger a reaction. Keep the greenery outdoors. In-door plants are pretty, but they can also collect and foster the growth of mold. So, if indoor allergens are a problem, you'll want to avoid them, says Dr. BuSaba. While some plants are touted as helping to improve indoor air quality because they release oxygen, they are still allergy triggers for many people. "On balance, they create more problems than they help," he says. Change your filters. If you have a forced-air heating system, be certain to change the filters regularly, says Dr. BuSaba. Electrostatic filters can help ensure that dust and other airborne irritants get trapped instead of being recirculated throughout your home. Also, consider having your ducts cleaned to remove trapped dust. This may not always be advisable, but it helps in some cases. The Environmental Protection Agency offers advice on making this decision at https://www.health.harvard.edu/iaq. Invest in an air purifier. If you're allergic to indoor allergens and can't control the source of the problem — for example, you're unwilling to give up your family pet — it may help to use an air purifier, says Dr. BuSaba. Placed in the most commonly used areas of the house, these devices, in particular, ionic purifiers, can help capture some of the irritants that may trigger your symptoms. You're probably not going to be able to remove these allergens completely, but you can cut down on them, which may help the problem. Also consider a dehumidifier in damp areas, such as a basement, to help prevent the growth of mold. Ensure that bathrooms, another potential source of mold, are well ventilated as well and scrub off any visible mold that collects in the shower, on fixtures, or walls. Let the fresh air in. Even in the cold months, open windows from time to time to allow fresh air to move into the house. Also, move potential air contaminants out by using fans in the kitchen to remove cooking fumes.